"It’s understandable why in Palestinian parlance it’s common to describe the Palestinian conflict with Zionism and Israel not as a national conflict but as an anti-colonialist struggle. Portraying the Palestinians not as a side in a national conflict but as a people fighting against colonialism holds two advantages: According to the rules of postcolonial discourse, the Palestinians are in the right by definition and are never responsible for anything. But these advantages, and the forgoing of any serious attempt to understand the nature of the other side and its motives, come at a heavy price.
If you don’t have a good understanding of whom you’re dealing with, it will be hard to predict the other side’s behavior and responses (this applies to both sides of the conflict, of course). The Palestinians’ ongoing refusal to accept that they are confronting a people and a rival national movement, and the illusion that this confrontation can be won using methods suited to the colonialist paradigm, have been disastrous for the Palestinian people.
The anti-colonialist struggles of the 20th century succeeded even though the colonial powers were always much stronger than those who fought them. The colonialist power ultimately gave up the fight and retreated – in most cases without a battle, and in several famous cases only after a military struggle. In any case, the fight was not perceived as vital enough to justify the investment of resources necessary to keep it going.
The essence of a colonialist situation is that perpetuating colonial rule is a luxury of sorts and not a vital need for the colonial power. It matters much less to it than liberation from foreign rule matters to those fighting it.
Of course, to the colonial settler, perpetuating colonial rule isn’t a luxury, but he isn’t the one who determines the fate of the struggle. At the same time, he has somewhere to return to: the colonial mother country. This is what, to their dismay, European settlers in Algeria, French citizens (though not all of French background), did when the French Republic decided, contrary to their wishes, to leave Algeria.
At some point, the settlers may disconnect from the mother country and create a new nation – and from this moment, they have nowhere to return to, and this is no longer a colonial situation.
In Haaretz over the weekend Ishay Rosen-Zvi asserted that “Zionism began as a colonialist movement.” At the same time he admits that this was a national movement of a persecuted people whose ties to the land have been part of their identity and culture, and that the people who came here left behind them not a colonial mother country on whose behalf and under whose auspices they were acting, but rather Czarist Russia, anti-Semitic Poland or Nazi Germany. Applying the term “colonialism” to such a situation empties this term of most of its moral and analytical significance.
It is indeed important to understand that in the Arabs’ eyes, the Zionists’ arrival was perceived as a colonial phenomenon. Anyone who has read Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s “The Iron Wall” knows that there was no lack of understanding this fact in the Zionist movement. But since when is one side’s point of view the last word in assessing the nature of a conflict? It's a pity that the leaders of the Arab national movement in Palestine did not make an effort to understand how the Jews perceived themselves, their situation and their connection to this land.
The declared anti-colonialist fight against Zionism before 1948, and against Israel thereafter, was based on the assumption that the founding of the Jewish national home, in the conditions of the 20th century, and the State of Israel’s continued existence, have been a luxury of sorts for the Jews – something akin to conquering a colony and retaining it. By this logic, the Jews could be made to give up their hope for a state, and later give up Israel itself, just as the governments in London and Paris were once “persuaded” to give up their overseas colonies.
Someone who displays such a degree of blindness toward the other side’s fundamental character is likely to bring disaster on his own people. The use of anti-colonialist rhetoric against Israel reached a peak in the ‘60s, before the 1967 occupation, in parallel to the successes of the anti-colonialist movements in Asia and Africa. The Palestinian organizations, with Fatah at the forefront, developed a doctrine of a “popular war of liberation” for the liberation of Palestine. The Fatah terror attacks carried out from Syrian territory were part of the process of escalation that led to the war in June 1967.
The “anti-colonialist” blindness in relation to Israel fostered an expectation that Israel would crumble from within. After all, this wasn’t a real people and a real nation-state, but some “invented” artificial entity. If we pressure and threaten it enough, it will collapse like a house of cards, the thinking went.
Israeli rule in the territories and the settlement project certainly have colonialist aspects. The settlers do have a mother country, and it sent them to a territory under military occupation populated by people without civil rights. But there too the main essence of the situation is a national conflict between two peoples that both see the entire land on both sides of the Green Line as their homeland.
If the occupation were fundamentally colonialist, it would have ended long ago. No country fights for a colony for 50 years – it’s just not that important. Even Israelis who want Israel to leave the West Bank know all too well that the Palestinians view Israel within the ’67 lines as part of their homeland – ruled by a colonialist entity, not by a rival national movement and another people for whom this land is also their homeland.
But the pleasure some take in defining Israel this way comes with a cost. Those who promote anti-colonialist rhetoric against Israel as such and against Zionism from the start are helping convince Israelis that withdrawal from the territories will only result in a continuation of the “anti-colonialist” struggle to be waged mere kilometers from Ben-Gurion Airport. No people in the world would think otherwise under similar circumstances.
When someone discusses the colonial roots of the United States, or when in the West, some Coptic activists claim that the Arab-Muslim conquest of Egypt was a colonial conquest (in Egypt they don’t dare say that), this does not raise the question whether America’s critics have accepted its existence or are determined to go on fighting it, or whether the Coptic world has finally come to terms with the existence of Muslim Egypt. The situation is different when Israel is defined as an inherently colonialist entity in the context of an ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.
Defining Zionism as a national movement does not give it or the state that it founded any immunity from criticism. National movements and nation-states are capable, particularly in a situation of national conflict, of actions certainly no less brutal than those of colonial regimes. Even Arab nationalism itself has not been entirely devoid of brutality throughout its history. Someone who seeks to contribute to peace between two peoples should not adopt one side’s slogans of war and of denying the other."
If you want to know why we are here in 2018, it might be useful to look at 1945 without your sneering. obviously that's a long time ago. but at least discuss it with a modicum of sensibility.
to go around and say, oh, the people who came out of the death camps didn't want to go to a war zone and laugh mockingly, that is your way.
the zionists did not feel that assimilation was an option, because those yehudis under the czar, most were mere years away from tradition, many living under the roof of traditional parents, still familiar with traditional friends, before their breaking off. they were romantics, not wishing to go the path of vulgar assimilationism and the move to america, but to find a more ideal solution, and that ideal was the romance of nation. the russians and their zeitgeist said, we do not accept you, we are russians and you are zhid. and the zionist response was, indeed we are separate from you. we will go to zion and start over. the new jew no longer a jew, but the new hebrew. and that's where the whisper of jerusalem comes in.
the nakba was and is a cruelty to the palestinians and therefore recognizing the "validity" of the Jewish urge towards physical Jerusalem is verboten to those who are true blue (or true green black red and white). I hear you.
as vonnegut says in another context, "so it goes."
The three oaths were really 2 oaths taken by klal Israel (the commonality of Israel, meaning the Jewish people) and those were not to forcibly go back to the land and not to rebel against the nations and one vow taken by the nations of the world: not to overly repress the Jews. (The distinction between midrash and halacha, or legend and law, might better be described as a theory of history versus a prohibition, or a description rather than a prescription.) In the aftermath of the Holocaust, I have heard it explained that since the nations have not kept their part of the vow (bargain) then the Jewish oath is no longer binding since the nations busted their vow.
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, (1903-1993) considered even now 25 years after his death, the primary rabbi of Modern Orthodoxy in America has been quoted as saying that his attitude towards Zionism changed as a result of the Holocaust, to be specific: Post-Dachau, he had a different attitude than before Dachau. (Interesting that the quote that I cannot find on line, but that I heard 45 years ago, specified Dachau rather than Auschwitz.)
The General Assembly's acceptance of the Partition Plan combined with the acceptance of Israel into the United Nations, certainly changes the dynamics of the "rebellion against the nations" element involved in Zionism. (I think that the actions re: the West Bank signify a rebellion in a way that the actions re: Israel proper do not constitute rebellion against the nations, although this may be debatable.)
Although I have never heard anyone claim Talmudic erudition for any Modern Orthodox rabbi superior to Rabbi Soloveitchik, in Israel itself his attitudes towards Israel were considered tepid compared to the rabbis in Israel itself. Their "first" leader was the first Rabbi Kook who died in 1935, and their chief spokesman after his death became his son, Zevi Yehuda Kook. The school of Zevi Yehuda Kook believes that once the nations have given the go ahead to the Zionist enterprise the green light has been given and any limitations are to be dismissed.
Now that the Jews have gotten into the game of history and are no longer bystanders, they must grab the bull by the horns and assert their full rights. I think that sums up the attitude of the religious Zionist settlers.
As far as the ultra Orthodox, their attitude is mixed. Disregarding for the moment outliers like Neturei Karta, for the most part the ultra Orthodox see the Orthodox community in Israel as a fulfillment of the continuity of the traditions that Hitler did his best to erase (aided by Stalin's spiritual genocide to accompany Hitler's physical genocide.) Israel is the home of more study of Talmud by ultra Orthodox than the rest of the world combined, I believe, and as such protecting that community from being tainted by modernity (and service in the IDF) and from stabbing by Palestinians, is paramount in their thoughts. Their attitudes towards the occupied territories can be summed up by, "Ask Rabin, what is going to be part of the eventual Israel and anywhere that Rabin delineates is territory where we may inhabit." (paraphrase of quote by Rabbi Shach, 1899-2001)
There are several large communities of ultra Orthodox in the West Bank, where apartment prices are reasonable compared to similar housing in Israel proper, but those ultra Orthodox who see their role as furthering the conquering and settling of the territories are outliers. Such outliers include Lubavitch, so the term "outliers" is probably misleading in terms of numbers, but certainly the hard core of the settlers do not get their inspiration from the traditional rabbis who are humble regarding history, but rather from the rabbis who see history as having undergone a basic change, something that conservative rabbis (in outlook, not in denomination) do not see.
(One other point that may be extraneous. The primary enumerator of the Biblical laws is considered to be Maimonides. There are 613 laws in the Torah (a tradition that is described in the Talmud) and Rambam, delineates them in a book called "Sefer Hamitzvot" "The Book of the Commandments". There are many laws that can only be performed in Israel itself, but moving to Israel, is not itself one of the 613 commandments. According to Maimonides. But Nachmanides, whose Hebrew acronym Ramban is awfully similar to the Rambam, does enumerate moving to Israel as a commandment, particularly to places where the presence of Jews would solidify Jewish claims on the territory.)